Wouldn’t that sort of knowledge sharing and interaction help foster better communication within an organization as well? Socialcast thinks so and their hosted team messaging service is designed to do just that.
Socialcast has a history of building private social networks for the entertainment industry so this is familiar territory for them. Their service allows companies to aggregate information and encourage communication and collaboration within their organization, much like we do externally with tools like Twitter or FriendFeed.
Each user is able to create a profile and share information, status updates, documents, links and more with their co-workers. The user profiles are completely customizable and can include custom questions as well as the ability for users to include links to other accounts like last.fm, Digg, LinkedIn or even their personal blogs. All of this can be controlled or limited in the administration panel to meet the needs of your particular deployment.
The ubiquitous status update is familiar to anyone already using Twitter or Facebook and it can even be set up so that a Twitter status is used within Socialcast.
The user profile seems like they would be a great way for people to get to know their colleagues and co-workers in a more personal way, and to reduce the anonymity that is frequent in large companies or those with disparate locations. In my corporate experience, the only way we could really see who worked where was to look through our GAL (Global Address List). This connecting of employees to the entire company even in remote or disconnected locations encourages a more collaborative team atmosphere.
Socialcast offers plugins for Gmail (Firefox only), Lotus Notes, Outlook, and a recently introduced iPhone app to make it easier for folks to participate using the tools that they are already comfortable with. Reducing the barrier to entry is key for maximum participation and since people can jump in without major changes to their existing workflow they are more likely to make a contribution.
Socialcast makes it easy for people to share ideas, ask questions, or solicit feedback.
In one customer study, they found that 93% of questions asked were answered successfully by folks in another location. This type of sharing of best practices creates a self updating knowledge base with useful information being more readily available. Successful knowledge sharing like this is tremendous and really shows what a resource like this can contribute to a group.
The Socialcast folks say that they can meet Government regulations related to archiving and other compliance rules.
A concern I had with the deployment of a tool or service like this is that it could be used to quickly spread negative information or attitudes as well. I think with careful planning, and clear establishment of rules and usage guidelines issues could be avoided though.
While it can be used by teams of all sizes, the feature set seems to be designed for use in larger organizations. It’s possible to set up a structure within Socialcast that mirrors your internal structure and assign users to their appropriate groups. That said, I think it can also provide a lot of value for small groups as well.
The system is tremendously easy to use and I think once folks get past the “oh great, another system I need to use” feeling, it could be a tremendous asset in any size organization. Again, the availability of tools like the Gmail plugin should help a lot in getting user traction.
Socialcast is free for the first five users and $1-5 monthly for each user after based on your company size. Sign up is easy for self serve (up to 250 users) and Enterprise Solutions are also available.
Do you encourage messaging in your organization? What tools do you use?